Graphic Novel Review: Bloodlust & Bonnets by Emily McGovern

Bloodlust & Bonnets by Emily McGovern. Andrews McMeel, 2019. 9781449497477. 203pp.

This is the most hilariously odd graphic novel set at the end of the Regency period ever.

Miss Lucy takes a sword cane to some gentlemen that deserve it, and is invited to join a secret ancient immortal vampire cult. But then, a self-obsessed Lord Byron shows up with his psychic eagle, Napoleon, to save her. Covered in blood they fly to his castle in the Scottish Highlands. That’s just in the opening pages. In the rest: a magic castle, more vampires, an ambush, a hot vampire killer, cross dressing, Sir Walter Scott, betrayal, a ball, lust, a succubus, several amazing entrances, a lot of cartoony blood and violence, and a public bath in Bath. The whole thing is nonstop madness.

You can read more of McGovern’s comics at, including the short that this graphic novel is based on. (I love the simple cartoony style of this book way better than the style of the original short, though that looks great, too.)

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Book Review: Seattle Walk Report: An Illustrated Walking Tour through 23 Seattle Neighborhoods by Susanna Ryan

Seattle Walk Report: An Illustrated Walking Tour through 23 Seattle Neighborhoods by Susanna Ryan. Sasquatch Books, 2019. 9781632172617. 166pp with some amazing drawings of dogs on the endpapers.

The Seattle Walk Report is a charming guide to the character of a bunch of different Seattle neighborhoods, including maps. Each walk includes fun features that are permanent and others that are totally random. They all encourage you to wander, keep your eyes open, and document what you see, in Seattle or wherever you are

But since I’m from and live in Seattle, here are the bits I loved: Locks of the Ballard Locks, the two page spread of Parks Named After Seattle Women!, the drawing of The Central Library, and in particular the Lake City and Wedgewood Highlights. (I live mere blocks from one of the things on that page.) My wife seems to attract crows at certain times of year, so I’m sure she’ll love the So You’ve Been Attacked By A Crow In Montlake! page, which includes three possible defenses recommended by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. (I think they forgot to recommend safety glasses, though.)

Ryan is the best kind of tour guide — this is the end of her introduction: “Ok, if you don’t feel like going outside ever again, that’s OK, too. I’m not the boss of you.”

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Book Review: The Ultimate Droodles Compendium by Roger Price

The Ultimate Droodles Compendium by Roger Price. Tallfellow Press, 2019. 9781931290692. 280pp. Includes a forward by Leonard Maltin, an essay by Price from an earlier book, footnotes to make some of the more obscure (dated) references in the drawings comprehensible, sketches/notes from Prices’s secret files, a primer on how to make your own Droodles + a short biography of Price.

These simple, single panel gag comics by comedian Roger Price were popular in the ’50s and ’60s, and were republished earlier this year as a bit of dad humor just in time for Father’s Day. You may not be able to trust me on this review — I am, after all, a dad.

Each Droodle is a simple black and white drawing that can only be interpreted in the context of its caption (or its alternate caption, and/or its commentary). If you’ve seen Frank Zappa’s 1982 album Ship Arriving Too Late To Save A Drowning Witch, you’ve seen a Droodle. My favorites include Naughty French Postcard (15), Deep Sea Diver With Hiccups (25), Tomato Sandwich Made By Amateur Tomato Sandwich Maker (40), and Unassembled Sandpaper (87).

Price is my favorite kind of cartoonist — someone who is better at coming up with ideas than he is at drawing. Though I’m not in his league, he gives me hope. Sometimes he drew the picture first (and then figured out what it was), sometimes he came up with a funny caption and then did the drawing (a few of Droodles still stuck at the caption-only stage are in the book, too). The publishers even included some Droodles that were seen as funny way back when but which now look insensitive, so be forewarned.

It’s worth noting that Price was co-creator of Mad Libs, so I think most of us owe him a thank you or at least a nod– which is probably a good enough reason on its own to flip through this book, even if you’re not looking for a present for a father figure.

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Graphic Novel Review: When I Arrived At The Castle by Emily Carroll

When I Arrived At The Castle by Emily Carroll. Koyama, 2019. 9781927668689. 72pp, black and white and red.

A cat-like young woman arrives at a castle on a stormy night. Soaked, she’s invited by her beautiful hostess, and then insulted for being meek. The Countess is repulsive, the place smells of earth, and soon after a bath the young woman gets a look at the horror inside her host. It does not deter the young woman from her mission to kill the Countess.

This is an erotic horror tale drawn in black, white and red. Like all of Carroll’s work, it’s a masterclass in comics; everything from the lettering to the layouts to the drawings themselves is perfect.

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Guest Book Review: Waiter Rant

Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip- Confessions of a Cynical Waiter by The Waiter (Steve Dublanica). (He was anonymous initially, but later editions revealed his name at the end of the book, and now it’s on the cover.) 9780061256684. Harper Collins, 2008. 302pp.

The Waiter who wrote this book didn’t plan to wait tables. The pace, the idea of taking home cash every night, and the lack of other job prospects in a slow economy kept him at The Bistro. The whole time he bemoaned his job — all he really wanted was to spend more time on this book.

The chapter “Heaven and Hell” is one that anyone who works with the public will be able to understand, and my favorite. The Waiter recounts the time he had a shitty week — he was tired and cranky from working all the time and the tips were barely covering his bills. He was once again thinking about throwing in his apron and getting a “real” job. An affluent young family brought his attention to the homeless man who camped out near The Bistro. The Waiter’s heart grew three sizes (much like the Grinch’s) when the family bought dinner for the homeless man. After the Waiter took him his dinner, the man commented, “Sartre was only half right. People can be Heaven, too.” But the public can be a weird, needy group, too — sometimes they will curse out their server if their eggs were cooked over-medium instead of over-well, and the after-church crowd may leave servers religious tracts instead of money.

Like the Waiter, I never ever spit in anyone’s food while I was on the job, but I did enjoy making certain condescending jerks sweat. I had one guy who would repeatedly come in at lunch, never get off his cell phone, and would always shoo me away when I tried to take his order. On the third day of Mr. Businessman’s rude behavior, I ignored the boorish way he waved me over while still on his phone and came to his table last. I had already taken everyone else in my section’s orders; some were already eating. He was the last person left in my section and was pretty miffed. I told him sweetly, “You always looked so busy when you come in that I didn’t want to interrupt you. Would you like to hear today’s specials?” And there was a guy who literally growled at me when I tried to take away his menu. I told him, “Don’t growl at me, dude, I see your food before you do!” He laughed out loud and became one of my regulars. I called him “Growly” although he insisted his mother named him Dave.

The tips I earned as a waitress put me through school — I never had to take out a student loan. It’s hard to explain the adrenaline rush of waiting tables to someone who has never done it, but the waiter really shows that it’s a bit like performing a one-person show where anyone in the “theater” (fellow wait staff, cooks, bartenders, bus people, customers, etc.) can ruin your night. Everyone on this planet should wait tables for at least six months. If you decide to take up the challenge, you will appreciate the long hours on your feet (instant calf muscles), the dedication of the kitchen crews who are usually there before sunrise and can’t leave until after closing, and the way your ability to memorize while multi-tasking will improve, because you’ll want to get paid for the experience, right? You may discover hidden talents and the ability to thrive in chaos. At worst, after the experience you will never tip less than 20 percent again.

Thanks to Murphysmom for this guest book review!

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Graphic Novel Review: Stanislaw Lem’s The Seventh Voyage: A Graphic Novel by Jon Muth

Stanislaw Lem’s The Seventh Voyage: A Graphic Novel by Jon Muth. Scholastic Graphix, 2019. 9780545004626. 80pp.

Ijon Tichy is cruising in the vicinity of Betelgeuse, when his ship is hit by a small meteoroid. He suits up and goes outside to make repairs, but it’s impossible to do alone. His ship flies on, straight ahead, its velocity increasing. After a failed meal that he turns into a satellite around his ship, Tichy goes to bed, and is awoken by a version of himself from the future who wants to help with the repairs. He refuses to believe his future self was real, but he’s wrong — it’s the beginning of an absurd and comical time travel adventure.

Jon Muth’s watercolors make this graphic adaptation of one of Lem’s Ijon Tichy stories even more lighthearted than it already is — when Tichy’s ship is struck in the first pages, he’s baking. And later the Tichy’s from different days and ties crowd the ship, the art is just amazing, and really silly. This is a great introduction to Lem’s fiction for young readers, and it’s going to make old fans like me smile, too.

I fell in love with Lem’s stories reading One Human Minute because it showed me a direction I’d never considered, that science fiction could include reviews of books that don’t exist. Lem’s work is brilliant. Thanks to Muth for pointing me back in Lem’s direction.

You can read the original story (and others by Lem) at

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Graphic Novel Review: This Was Our Pact by Ryan Andrews

This Was Our Pact by Ryan Andrews. First Second, 2019. 9781626720534. 330pp.

On the night of the Equinox Festival, Ben and four friends make a pact to follow the lanterns down the river. Do they really become stars? They promise to ride their bikes for as long as it takes to find out. But then Nathaniel starts following them (his dad and Ben’s dad are best friends). One by one, Ben’s friends drop out and head for home until only he and Nathaniel are left. (Nathaniel is a bit of an outsider, and Ben’s friends are promise-breaking jerks, so this is clearly for the best.) They meet a bear on his way to catch fish, who thinks the lanterns are fish, and who wishes he could join them as they swim among the stars. They separate at a towering cliff the boys cannot climb. The boys do figure out a way forward, and of course they meet the bear again, but giving more details would be telling.

This graphic novel combines the quiet magic of the best Miyazaki movies with a beautiful visual style all of its own. I cannot imagine anyone who wouldn’t enjoy the quest, and seeing Ben and Nathan’s friendship form is just as magical.


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Graphic Novel Review: Sunny Rolls the Dice

Sunny Rolls the Dice by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm. Scholastic Graphix, 2019. 9781338233155. 224pp.

This is the third of the semi-autobiographical Sunny graphic novels from the siblings Holm, and it’s by far my favorite.

1977, Pennsylvania. Sunny is becoming obsessed with teen culture, in particular with magazines that rate her on the groovy meter and from which, after taking a quiz, she knows she is “not groovy.” She also loves comics and Dungeons & Dragons, which she starts playing with friends. (Her human fighter’s name is Aleta the Brave.) At some point her desire to be groovy leads her to stop playing D&D which makes her unhappy (at least until she figures out that that was a bad move).

I think older grade school aged kids will love this book, but since I grew up in the 70s, this is pure nostalgia for me: bugbears, gelatinous cubes, off-brand action figures, roller skating, and pining for my very own Monster Manual. (I never got one, but Jennifer Holm apparently did.)


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Graphic Novel Review: Queen of the Sea

Queen of the Sea by Dylan Meconis. Walker Books (Candlewick), 2019. 9781536204988. 394pp.

Young Margaret lives on a small island in the Silver Sea, in a convent that belongs to the Elysian Order. She’s not sure where she was born, why she came to the island, or who her parents are, but she’s reassured by the nuns that she was sent there to be safe. Envious of kids who have parents, she bonds with the only “children” on the island: the wooden statue of the Sorrowful Child, and Eleanor, who is in a painting with her father, King Edmund. Margaret’s prayers are answered when the supply ship brings William and his overprotective mother, Lady Cameron. They’ve been exiled to the island after William’s father rebelled against the king. Margaret and William become close, and, years later, when he finally decides to leave the island, he’s the one that gets her to see that everyone there, including her, is a prisoner and cannot leave. Soon after a new exile arrives, and it is Eleanor (from the painting), along with guards and a very strict, high ranking nun. Eleanor is a bit angry (in part because she’s been exiled by her sister, who seized the throne), but Margaret is desperate to become friends, and soon finds herself drawn into helping Eleanor.

This book is based on events in the British Isles in the 16th Century. I cannot imagine being excited about a book that meets that description if it were written/drawn by anyone else, but I’ve been a fan of Meconis’ comics since reading Family Man years ago, and the characters, the writing, and art all drew me in. I found myself rooting for Margaret, and also fascinated by the details of convent life, from the coracle they used for fishing to the hours of the day to the hand signs they communicated with while eating silently.

This is a graphic novel that’s going to fit very well into all library collections.

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Graphic Novel Review: Savage Sword of Conan: The Cult of Koga Thun (Black & White Edition)

Savage Sword of Conan: The Cult of Koga Thun (Black & White Edition) by Gerry Dugan (writer), Ron Garney (artist), Travis Lanham (letterer), Alex Ross (cover artist). Marvel, 2019. 9781302919993. 128pp. Reprints Savage Sword of Conan #1- 5. Publisher’s Rating: Parental Advisory.

This isn’t one of those high priced hardcovers where you can see the raw art with all of the blue line sketches underneath. This a book that was carefully produced, with all of the inked blacks that were in the comics, with some of the lines and shading turned to shades of grey for effect. It’s glorious, as you can see from the cover. I don’t know why you’d want to read Conan any other way, but there’s a regular (color) edition available too.

It’s worth noting the writing is good, as so much of what’s been produced over the years by Conan licensees has been average. The story opens with Conan clinging to wreckage in the open sea (he seems to have killed a shark with his bare hands)), and he’s soon picked up by slavers. Conan unscrews the shackles from the hold with a finger bone he “borrows” from a crew member and then, chained to a fellow prisoner, he seeks out the ship’s captain. In his cabin Conan finds a monstrous creature and an ornate chest, which starts him on a quest for treasure that includes wizards, lizard men, a lot of bloody fighting, and even a trip to the library.

It’s violent and it’s fun, and the lack of color will make it hard for would-be censors to see the blood.

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